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The Humility of Good Business

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It’s 8am. My son is off with his nanny for the day, coffee in hand, I’m approaching the office and I see a rather conspicuous notice taped to the window of the architecture firm directly next door. I decide to take the peak. The place is eerily dark, lights off, something sort of ominous about the place. I take a look at the notice. It’s a court ordered eviction summons, cease and desist immediately, five days to respond to New York State Superior Court. $83, 575 dollars in delinquent rent owed. Wow.

$83, 575 dollars! That is an incredible amount of money for just about anyone. That says to me a number of different things. For the sake of context, our office is on a quaint street in SOHO New York. It holds a certain cache, being still cobblestoned, and free from most of the click-clack of tourist foot traffic. A number of creatively inclined businesses hold office space on the block. It’s quite pleasant actually. With that said…

First: $83K back rent is not a problem that manifests out of thin air, like an inconvenient zit on the morning of a first date or something. This is the result of long term business negligence, arrogance, maybe both.

Second: Just the day before, the doors were open, employees buzzing to and fro. The next day… death hanging in the air. This tells me management most likely kept their employees in the dark as to how dire straights had become. I had become friendly with many of the neighborly staff. The polite wave, smile or hello was common. I had sensed no impending disruption in the day’s prior. I couldn’t help but ponder the anxiety, shock and dismay to get that call, or maybe even email. 10pm, preparing for work, you’re checking your Blackberry before settling in. “Dear, so and so, don’t come in tomorrow, we’re bankrupt and a year behind on the rent.” Devastating.

Third: The pretense of contemporary business has become the source of such an enormous amount of failure. We’ve had a first row seat to the dismantling of business lies here in NYC. It’s been called derivative financial modeling, faulty accounting, mis-calculated assets, fraud, Ponzi schemes. All of it rooted in this rather sickening sense of entitlement. Business owners of all shapes and sizes wore like a pretentious lapel pin that said “screw you, I’m not accountable”

I’ve always believed that the fundamental principle of humility does not have to exist in conflict with supreme self-confidence. They are not exclusive of each other; rather they are like emotional and mental sisters. Supporting each other in the pursuit of what some would call PERSPECTIVE. I challenge, and believe every PRO family member is part of the crème de la crème. The top 3%, but this does not mean we are infallible and without room for constant improvement. Becoming individually stagnant is the mark of indifference and ignorance. I force myself to learn something new every single day, knowing that constant progress is the mark of the proactive. The mark of the successful.

Evaluating our neighbor’s situation, I see a telltale sign of extreme hubris. The arrogance to not believe in adaptation. Being negligible of the simple business principles and having a sense of humble foresight. I have a favorite quote I use often from Einstein that states: “the mark of insanity is doing something the same way over and over and expecting a different result.” Good business is about having enough humility to know your practices are not perfect and keeping your ego in check. Knowing that your current success is not promised, it’s earned. It’s earned with a commitment to consistent evaluation, with listening and learning. Lessons of extreme value are amongst us constantly. Only those with the humility to accept their own imperfection as not an indictment on their ability, but an opportunity for betterment, see these lessons.

I also saw the importance of community. Success is the result of a collective energy, focus and common goals. A commitment to the success of the other only positively augments your own pursuit of achievement. The way these employees were marginalized, rendered more than just replaceable, but expendable is sad. The mark of good business is a belief that everyone has value, a sense of value breeds a sense of responsibility, a sense of responsibility breeds an environment of effort, an environment of committed effort breeds success.

We are in the midst of an economic situation that has been the result of, and mired in the muck of ENTITLEMENT. Living in New York, the epicenter of commerce the effects of this pervading arrogance have been more than apparent. Yes, we all deserve to have our hopes and dreams come to fruition. We deserve to provide for our children what we couldn’t have imagined experiencing ourselves.

I leave you with this.

“You’re never as good as they say you are, You’re never as bad as they say you are.”

“Stay humble when winning, Stay hungry when satisfied, Complacency Kills”

All my Best,

Jay Kubassek

  • JJ

    Sitting here in San Juan waiting on a connecting flight…starved to be back in the good ole USA. Thanks, Jay, for the reminder that we are not entitled to squat…but given the opportunity to do anything.

  • Larry Copling

    Thanks, Jay, for that. You posted it on my youngest daughter’s birthday, so it was I who got the valuable gift this year!

    American business is definitely in the “cross hairs” of the current economic climate and administration, but your essay reminds us all that it is also a time of great opportunity for business owners- to “reset” intention, focus and action steps.

    Good business management will always be great for America, as long as America continues to remain free. We WILL pull through all of this eventually, but we must remain vigilant during the dark times.

    Congratulations on your success. I am proud to call you a friend!

    Larry Copling
    Dallas, TX (formerly of Ft. Lauderdale, FL)

  • Jay – you are an inspiring writer. I love your posts. This is a great comment on what is wrong with our country – a sense of entitlement all around. I see it everywhere. But I also see those that are willing to step up and risk everything to mold and sculpt a life of honor. We must recognize and celebrate those that fall into this category. Your post is a good reminder to step up my own game. Thank you.

    James Chapman
    Gig Harbor, WA